ERG SES D 13, Intercultural Education
According to the United Kingdom Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA, 2017), the number of full-time postgraduate international students in the UK Higher Education (HE) has increased up to 174,170, accounting for 58% of total postgraduate student population. This dramatic increase in the number of the international student population has made the classrooms more culturally and linguistically diverse than ever. Extensive studies report a common observation about Asian students’ silence and reticence in classroom activities in the new learning environment (Liu, 2002; Morita, 2004; Choi, 2015; Lin. 2017). Exploring how this group of students negotiate and develop their participation patterns is crucial to facilitate their studies overseas and can have significant practical and policy implications for UK Higher Education and other international institutions that might have similar diverse population of international students. However, there is a lack of contemporary research addressing the examined issue (Duff, 2010; Yeh, 2014). This paper, drawing on part of the empirical data from my PhD project, examines three cases of Asian students’ ongoing learning experiences in the intercultural classroom at a British university in their efforts to achieve their participation in the classroom. The analysis of the three selected cases provides insights into postgraduates’ negotiation of legitimate participation in the new site of intercultural classrooms in the UK HE through answering three research questions:
- How do these Asian students feel about their position in the classroom?
- What are the voices behind their silence?
- How do their peers and instructors influence their participation?
Using a framework that combines theories of second language socialization (SLS) (Duff, 2007) and community of practice (CoP) (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), this paper perceives students’ learning as a socially situated process in which they interact with more experienced members to move towards full participation as legitimate members (Duff, 2010). Instead of regarding as international students’ responsibility to adjust or to change, this study investigates how community members interact and adjust to each other to create an equal classroom atmosphere. Drawing from the theory of CoP, this research investigates the L2 intercultural classroom as a community, while students’ participation and interactions are treated as a social practice in the particular community. Lave and Wenger (1991) apply the concept of legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) to illustrate how newcomers move towards full participation as legitimate members through acquiring the skills and knowledge essential for a certain CoP (Morita, 2004). Meanwhile, second language socialization is the medium to achieve participation and provides a theoretical basis to examine the process of interaction, transformation and development happening in the new context. A synthesis of the claims provides a foundation to analyse how international students as newcomers construct and negotiate their participation in classrooms.
This research applied ethnography-informed case study among 3 Asian postgraduate taught students at a British university to explore the examined issue for the whole academic year. The researcher observed their classroom behaviours for one semester, interviewing them immediately after the observations for about 15mins each time while interviewing 5 of their instructors and 6 peers who interacted with them (around one hour each). In addition, extra longer semi-structured interviews with each focal students were conducted three times, around 1 hour each time, in the beginning of the academic year, at the end of the first semester and at the end of the programme. Tracing students into different classrooms, observing and interviewing their reactions and responses to the class practices, the researcher documented their changing perspectives at different stages. Focal students’ perspectives were the main focus, while different views from their instructors and peers in complement with field notes of classroom observations were also studied to achieve a holistic picture of the examined phenomenon. Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to put data into themes, which represent the most recurrent and salient concepts emerging from the data.
This paper provides a picture of how Asian students develop and negotiate their verbal participation patterns in the new learning environment as well as the voices behind the silent phenomenon. Comparing and contrasting the selected participants’ responses to their postgraduate programmes, the researcher further explained their different socialisation processes by mapping out factors that lead to their different classroom participation modes, such as, language proficiency, knowledge of the subject, sense of membership and pedagogical practices, etc. Perspectives from their peers and instructors revealed the complicated nature of the intercultural classrooms. Not only the international students are challenged to adapt to this new field, instructors are also exposed to more complicated situation than ever and their peers, the local national students. Acknowledging the complexity of culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, this paper suggests the importance of ‘sense of community’ and ‘legitimate participation’ in the process of international students’ adjustments of studies. It also makes practical and policy implications to HE institutions to facilitate international students’ studies overseas.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Bryman, A. (2012). Social Reasearch Mehtods. New York: Oxford University Press Choi, J. Y. (2015). Reasons for silence: A case study of two Korean students at a US graduate school. TESOL Journal, 6(3), 579-596. Duff, P. A. (2010). Language socialization into academic discourse communities. Annual review of applied linguistics, 30, 169-192. HESA, (2017). Higher education student enrolments and qualifications obtained at higher education providers in the United Kingdom 2015/16. Retrieved from https://www.hesa.ac.uk/news/12-01-2017/sfr242-student-enrolments-and-qualifications on January 15, 2017. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press. Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities. Tesol Quarterly, 38(4), 573-603. Ryu, S., & Lombardi, D. (2015). Coding classroom interactions for collective and individual engagement. Educational Psychologist, 50(1), 70-83. Shumin Lin. (2017) To speak or not to speak in the new Taiwanese university: class participation and identity construction in linguistically and culturally diverse graduate classrooms. Language and Intercultural Communication 0:0, pages 1-20. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning as a social system. Systems thinker, 9(5), 2-3. Yeh, L. M. (2014). Participatory Legitimacy in ESL Practice and the Use of Coping
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